They ate raw centipedes — and then the headaches began


The first affected person, a 78-year-old girl, got here to the hospital in November 2012 with a headache, sleepiness and cognitive impairment. Weeks later, a 46-year-old man additionally got here to the hospital with a headache that had lasted for greater than 20 days. Both sufferers had stiff necks, an indication of potential meningitis. Scans confirmed two suspicious spots in the girl’s mind, and one nodule in the man’s proper lung.

Both sufferers had one thing in frequent: They had eaten raw centipedes from a vegetable market in Guangzhou.

Lab exams confirmed that they had been contaminated with rat lungworm, in any other case often known as Angiostrongylus cantonensis, which had precipitated a kind of meningitis.

The parasite can totally mature in rats, not people. “So when it gets in a human, it can get lost, and it will go to the brain, and it’ll stay there,” Heather Stockdale Walden, an assistant professor in the division of infectious illnesses and pathology at the University of Florida, previously told CNN.

“When it gets to the brain, you can have eosinophilic meningitis,” she stated, referring to an irritation of the skinny membrane overlaying the spinal twine and mind.

Humans have turn into contaminated with the parasite by eating contaminated crops and animals — together with snails, slugs and even monitor lizards. But it was not recognized to be brought on by eating centipedes, which have lengthy been utilized in Chinese traditional medicine.

To affirm that it may have been the centipedes, the researchers bought 20 of them from the similar market the place the two sufferers had gotten theirs. They discovered rat lungworm larvae in seven of the specimens — a median of 56 larvae per centipede.

“To our knowledge, this is the first report of A. cantonensis infection through the consumption of centipedes,” they wrote.

Critter transmitters

“We do know that people can acquire the parasite by consuming raw or undercooked snails and slugs,” Janice Okubo, a spokeswoman for the Hawaii State Department of Health, advised CNN final 12 months when the state saw a number of cases.

More than 140 species of mollusks, resembling snails and slugs, have been discovered to be potential intermediate hosts in nature and in scientific experiments, in keeping with the authors of the new report.

Parasites could be lurking in your sushi, doctors warn

Other animals that feast on these snails and slugs, together with some frogs and fish, might also turn into contaminated. But as the title of the parasite suggests, the rat is the definitive host.

The parasitic worm, after being ingested by rats, makes its manner from the gut to the bloodstream, and then to the mind. They molt and mature in the brain and migrate again right down to the lung’s arteries, the place grownup worms are discovered. An grownup feminine might lay 15,000 eggs per day.
Rats cough up these worms and subsequently swallow them. This is how the parasites have a tendency to finish up again in rats’ fecal matter, the place they’re then eaten by slugs or snails — and so the cycle continues.
In people, the parasite cannot survive for lengthy, so most infections ultimately resolve on their very own. But in uncommon circumstances, it could actually trigger severe problems and even loss of life, in keeping with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Angiostrongylus cantonensis can present differently in adults and children. So usually, in adults, one of the main things that you hear complaint of is a headache,” Walden stated. She added that adults generally report neck stiffness, nausea and vomiting.

“In children, it’s more the nausea and vomiting, not so much the headache,” she stated. Children can even run fevers and really feel belly ache greater than adults.

The ingested parasite “can also move to the eye, and you can get ocular Angiostrongylus,” Walden stated. “If the parasite goes to the eye, sometimes you can surgically remove it.”

People don’t turn into contagious, so they can’t transmit the an infection to another person.

The sufferers in the new report recovered nicely after 15 days of therapy, which included an antiparasitic drug and a steroid, the authors wrote.

Doctors typically search for clues and base their diagnoses on potential publicity to the parasite, by food or water, whereas dwelling in or visiting an endemic area. Over 2,800 circumstances have been reported in about 30 international locations, most of them in elements of Asia and the Pacific Islands, with fewer circumstances showing in the Caribbean and Africa.

The CDC recommends washing greens totally and boiling any frogs or snails you could be eating for 3 to 5 minutes. According to the company, you might also wish to cowl any drinks to thwart any snails or slugs on a mission.

CNN’s Susan Scutti contributed to this report.


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